The rate and intensity of disruption in the form of rapidly shifting customer demands, new regulations, and market volatility are pushing businesses into a constant state of adaptation. Add to this a global pandemic and the need to support fully remote work practically overnight, and companies have been forced to undertake a decade’s worth of change in just a handful of months.

Even if you’ve embraced digital transformation as a top priority, it may still feel like COVID-19 hit the gas and propelled you over the speed limit.  While no business could have predicted a crisis like this one, those that are further along in their agile transformation journey were able to quickly pivot their entire business, from the way they work together to how they deliver to customers. 

Here, we’re sharing the key abilities businesses need to achieve enterprise agility, enabling them to adapt to extreme adversity – and thrive. 

Embrace enterprise agility through a culture of learning

The success of your organization is directly tied to your enterprise agility – that is, your capacity to respond to customer needs in the face of constant change. Enterprise agility is a fundamental shift in the way organizations manage strategy, invest, and execute initiatives. It starts with the expansion of lean and agile practices beyond software teams to all teams across the business – finance, legal, HR, marketing, portfolio management – driving alignment throughout all functions and unblocking them from responding to shifting customer demands.  

What does this look like in practice?  Organizations that embrace enterprise agility demonstrate the following three key behaviors:

  1. Pivot or persevere. Teams continuously test ideas by placing bets with a hypothesis of the value it’ll bring to customers, and get fast feedback to determine the next steps.
  2. Deliver value faster and iterate. Instead of investing in year-long projects that may not meet customer needs, teams respond to customer needs in smaller increments and stay ahead of the competition. 
  3. Listen to the market and prioritize effort. Focus on the signals and pieces of information that help teams learn faster and enable rapid directional shifts. 

This mode of operation turns the company into a learning organization, enabling teams to think in short-term bets that are aligned to a long-term strategy, with the flexibility to adapt to as needed.  

Enterprise agility in action: How one company transformed everything at once 

How to align teams at scale

This is where you may wonder: can a large enterprise pivot quickly across people, process, technology, and compliance? The answer is yes, and we’re seeing examples in real-time during this unplanned market disruption.  

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Domino’s Pizza embarked on an ambitious new initiative: rewire their entire organization for contactless delivery so customers could receive their pizza orders without direct human contact. Within weeks, teams across software, HR, IT, marketing, manufacturing, and training completely re-orchestrated their customer delivery model. 

This massive undertaking included retraining their franchises, shipping gloves and masks to stores, building a mobile app, and working with partners to increase their box orders. The entire enterprise needed total alignment. By meeting customers’ demands for piping hot pizza delivered without health risks, Domino’s was able to fundamentally disrupt the restaurant industry. 

Like Domino’s, we’re seeing more companies successfully move away from an annual funding model, investing in new initiatives and opportunities on a quarterly basis. Organizations are shifting from a project model to one where they’re charged with funding continuous value in products delivered to the market, and making new investments framed as hypotheses, where all outcomes are a learning opportunity rather than a binary success or failure. This is possible for any company of any size.

Anticipate change, design for disruption

In many cases over the last few months, if you had not yet transitioned to digitally-enabled collaboration across your company, you weren’t able to respond to your customers as quickly as necessary. While it’s rare to see all sectors of business impacted at once, no organization is immune to disruption. For every industry, it’s not so much a matter of if, but when this will happen again. Over the next five years, the ability to respond to change is a competitive advantage that will be the great divider between the companies that thrive and those that disappear. 

According to Accenture, companies that fail to scale innovation may lose up to $20 billion in revenue over the next five years as enterprises “thrive or dive,” based on information technology decisions. Most business leaders interviewed by McKinsey in 2019 believe that scaling up a technology transformation can help them deliver 30 to 50 percent more profit and shareholder value. 

However, two-thirds of technology transformation programs fail to deliver positive business value.  To avoid this outcome, traditional companies must face these pressing and important problems.

Accelerate your digital transformation with Atlassian

Can OKRs accelerate your scaled agile transformation?

Rewiring an enterprise to scale innovation in a digital economy is no small feat, but the reward is the ability to thrive in environments of extreme uncertainty. At Atlassian, we understand the challenges and rewards first-hand. We live agility, as best as we can, each and every day. We embrace change, consistently re-center around customer needs, and aren’t afraid to make the tough calls when we need to drop a project to create room for something else to grow.  

Our products are built using enterprise agility practices across our teams. Our goal is to create enterprises where teams work together in smaller batch sizes, adapting strategy, tactics, and backlogs in a fluid manner based on rapid learning loops, with a clear understanding of the value required and the metrics that matter. 

Embrace the next wave of transformation

The agile and digital movements have been underway for almost two decades, and we’ve learned a lot about what it takes to leverage lean-agile principles in all aspects of an enterprise. Now that many large enterprises have cracked this code, enterprise leaders will further separate from those who are falling behind as they out-innovate the competition with a tenacious focus on value delivery that is backed up by a predictable, digital operation built for change. 

Ready to unlock the potential of your enterprise? Find out how you can align your business around delivering value.

A vision for enterprise agility